Once the worst of this pandemic is over, psychologists warn that many of us may suffer from post-traumatic stress for some time to come. Some of us will have lost a job, seen our business close down for good, suffered isolation and loneliness, or may have even lost a loved one during the COVID-19 crisis.
But is PTSD a given in these circumstances? Is there different outcome that can occur, an unexpected benefit that may arise out of these difficult times?
Psychologists say yes: there’s such a thing as post-traumatic growth. It’s been found in survivors of war, cancer, and natural disasters. Some people emerge from a crisis with increased spirituality, a greater sense of personal strength, new priorities and closer relationships with others. What could have broken them actually made them better.
This phenomenon reminds me a bit of “sea glass.” Sea glass, or beach glass, found washed up on shores, starts out as merely cast-aside pieces of broken glass. Perhaps they’ve been tossed overboard from a ship, or thrown into the sea from land along with other garbage.
These shards of glass endure years of being buffeted against the stones of the sea bottom. It seems like they’re being dashed about mercilessly by the relentless action of the waves. Surely no good could come of this?
But then, something almost magical emerges.
During the decades of being tossed against the stones, the little pieces of unwanted glass undergo a transformation. Gradually, their sharp edges are softened, and they gain a misty patina.
Eventually, they wash up on the shores of oceans or very large lakes, where people pick them up. Now, however, the glass is no longer just a fragment of refuse: it’s become a thing of beauty.
What was once a jagged remnant of a broken bottle has become a smooth, frosted piece of vintage glass. Called “treasures of the sea,” sea glass is used to make enchanting pieces of jewellery. Each piece is unique, and has its own secret history. Whose hands originally held it? How far has it travelled? We don’t know.
All we know is that it’s been transformed from a broken, cast-off piece of glass into a little jewel. The shard of glass tumbled and cartwheeled for decades against the rocks, not realizing that the turbulence it was undergoing would become the very vehicle that produced its mysterious, enchanting beauty.
Isn’t it like that with us as believers, as well? The difficult things we go through don’t seem to be doing us any good. They’re painful and buffet us against the rocks relentlessly. But God is using the stormy waves of our lives to fashion something beautiful. He knows that just as calm seas won’t produce sea glass, a life devoid of challenges won’t produce the depth of character He wants for us. We can be assured that God is carefully using the hardships of our lives for our good, and to mould us into the beautiful image of His Son.
It’s possible to emerge from this pandemic with post-traumatic growth instead of post-traumatic stress, especially if we put our lives in God’s loving hands. Whatever you’ve gone through, God can bring something positive out of it. Put your faith in Him, express your gratitude for the good things He has done for you in the past, and trust that He’ll transform you through this crisis into a new creation.
I hope you’ll remember the lesson of the sea glass: that God can take something broken and make it beautiful. He can give you a crown of beauty instead of ashes, joy instead of mourning, and praise instead of a broken heart (Isaiah 61:3).
© 2020 Lori J. Cartmell. All rights reserved.